Reading Goals for 2018

Meet Ned, a new resident of the Bookcase.
Wow, it's already New Year's Eve Eve!  Christmas festivities are sadly winding down...  Tomorrow, people will wait outside in the freezing cold to ring in 2018, and I'll be in my snug, warm house, probably curled up with Fitzgerald's Tender is the Night, thus attempting to relive a New Year's memory from three years back.  Though surprising at times, 2017 has been a good year for me, and as someone who gets post-holiday blues, a book can help ease the transition into the next one.

I've talked already about 2017 in review, and how I've decided not to take on any more reading challenges, as tempting as they are.  That said, a few goals for 2018 have been floating around in my mind (I love the word "goal" because, for some reason, it sounds more flexible to me than "plan").   Here's a few of my open-ended reading goals for next year:
  • Bring back Book Journals.  I have quite a few chunksters on my TBR list... War and Peace, Moby-Dick, The Count of Monte Cristo, and Ben-Hur, to name a few.  I ought to be ready for another book journal by now!
  • Read more non-fiction.  With a new T. E. Lawrence biography on my shelf (thanks Mom & Dad!), I'm sure I'll be reading more history in 2018.  However, I hope to extend my reading beyond Lawrence to include other historical figures/times, as well as current events and other non-fiction categories.
  • Escape the comfort zone.  In the past decade, I've been quite content to focus my reading on classics from specific countries, time periods, and genres (I'm sure you've noticed!).  Contrary to appearances, I really value the vast range of classics that exist, most of it free on the internet, and my favorite book blogs tend to cover that range in great depth.  I'd love to get outside my comfort zone next year and explore more areas of classic literature.  I kind of did that with dystopian fiction this year, and it was one of the highlights of 2017!
  • Revive the blog.  Since I started this blog back in 2010, I have stuck to pretty much the same style of posts, over 7 1/2 years.  With the start of my podcast, Classics Considered, I've considered quitting blogging, since public speaking is a challenge I both enjoy and want to get better at.  However, I still believe there's great value in written reviews, and this blog has been one of my few writing pursuits that's amounted to anything whatsoever.  I love Noonlight Reads, and to keep it alive, I think I need to do a couple of things in 2018:
    • Have a posting schedule, with weekly features
    • Share more candid, personal posts about reading
    • Continue to find other inspiring blogs and interact with other readers.  
If you have any feedback or suggestions for the blog, please let me know!  

The Art of War, and other conflicts

The Art of War-Tangut script
The Art of War would be better marketed today as "The Art of Problem Solving."  As far as warfare goes, you won't find anything here that has not been amply represented in documentaries, novels, movies, and current events.  I guess we are (morbidly) privileged in the 21st century to have seen Sun Tzu's advice played out, as well as ignored, in countless brutal conflicts, so reading this as a guide to war brings nothing new to the modern, armchair reader. 

Read as a metaphor for IT project management, however, this book still offers good guidance on how to be an effective leader and make optimal use of resources to solve problems.  Though discipline is emphasized, he also highlights the necessity of being flexible and using brains over sheer strength.  The time he spends on the psychology of the players, including the enemy and one's own forces, reminded me of T. E. Lawrence's tactics in the Middle East.  Information is critical to identifying victory, so Sun Tzu includes an entire section on the importance and deployment of espionage. 

This manual is succinct, to the point, and not terribly lost in translation, which is probably why it is still referenced today.  I recommend reading it from a broader perspective, as there are nuggets of advice that can be used in a professional context.

My (Reading) Year in Review

It's mid-December already - can you believe it?!

According to Goodreads, I read 36 books this year.  (A couple of those were "did not finish"s, but apparently those count, too.)  It was twice as much as I committed to, and I don't say that to brag; it was more of an accident than anything.

You see, I started out the the year intending to read very specifically: learn to read French, read through the whole Bible, read longer books, read challenges, etc.  I've mentioned earlier this year some lessons learned in this area, which pretty much explain my "reading schedule" (or lack thereof, as it turned out).

2017 was a year of learning for me, nonetheless:
  • Though I didn't stick with French, I did read several UX books for work, which made a life-changing impact on my day job.
  • I read four plays (three by Arthur Miller) and discovered the literary greatness of that genre.
  • My coworker lent me a 699 page biography of T. E. Lawrence.  Not only do I now know T. E. better than most real-life acquaintances, I actually finished the book in a reasonable amount of time (double win!).
  • C. S. Lewis melted my heart with Till We Have Faces, then broke my new podcast with That Hideous Strength, a book too tough to talk about.  (Actually, I'm releasing my podcast review of "that hideous book" early next year.  So it's not 100% broken...just delayed.)
  • I've been working seriously on one of my own novels this year, the longest yet.  It's my take on the Victorian Gothic, and I'm excited to finish it in the next month or two.  ^_^
So, the mistake with starting out the year with Till We Have Faces is that all the subsequent fiction I read pales by comparison. I've also been shy of my physical TBR shelf, which contains some randomness like The Prisoner of Zenda and the Lucia & Mapp stories, as well as the ever-agonizing Nostromo by Joseph Conrad, a book I have started some three or four times... 

Basically, I'm ending the year in a reading rut, and I probably won't do much reading over Christmas break because I'll be writing and podcasting.  But that is ok.  As someone with far too many hobbies, I am trying to accept the fact I cannot do everything at once, and these pursuits are still fulfilling even when taken in small sprints.